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The Ecclesiastical Policy of 

Francisco Morazan and the 

Other Central American 




Reprinted from The Hispanic American Historical Review, 
Vol. Ill, No. 2, May, 1920 


Reprinted from The Hispauic American Histohical Review, Vol. Ill, No. 2, May, 1920 







The daring slogan of Voltaire, "Ecrasez I'infdme," raised 
against the parasitic, privileged orthodoxy of his age, well illus- 
trates the truism that uttered words are like a pebble thrown 
into a pond in that they set in motion an endless succession of 
thought ripples which may ultimately touch the outermost 
margin of human life ; for, though many of the Central American 
reformers were doubtless unconscious of the fact, the teachings 
of the French philosopher were at the foundation of the ecclesi- 
astical policy of Francisco Morazdn and the political group of 
which, for ten years, he was leader. This influence becomes 
very obvious after a brief study of the relation between state 
and church on the Isthmus from the inception of the idea of 
political independence to the time when Morazdn grasped the 
reins of political control. 

Spanish intellectuals were stimulated by the writings of Vol- 
taire and other French radicals long before the soldiers of Napo- 
leon Bonaparte entered the Iberian Peninsula, but the first 
important fruits of this influence did not appear until after the" 
meeting of the Cortes of Cadiz, which had organized to-defy 
the Bonapartes and to destroy their dominion to the south of the 
Pyrenees. The Cortes, made up primarily of radicals, imitating 
the French National Assembly, quickly enacted a body of 
startlingly democratic laws, which not only struck a blow at the 



nobility but also stripped the Spanish clergy of a large portion 
of their special privileges and time-honored prerogatives. 

This latter fact caused a profound change among the church- 
men of the Captaincy-General of Guatemala. A few years 
before, the church had been the most dependable as well as the 
most powerful part of the Spanish machinery for the administra- 
tion of the Indies; the clergy, always loyal themselves, could 
be counted upon to inculcate in the minds of their spiritual 
charges the duty of faithfulness and of submission to the Catho- 
lic sovereigns. Now, many of the Isthmian clergy, fearful lest 
they, in turn, be shorn of their ancient power and rich endow- 
ments, if they remained Unked politically with Spain, joined the 
other revolutionists in the hope of becoming the dominant 
element in an ohgarchy to be established under an independent 
flag.i It is true, the restoration of the degenerate and craven 
House of Bourbon to the Spanish throne, followed by the re- 
actionary measures of Ferdinand VII., was reflected in Guate- 
mala by a shght counter-revolutionary movement — especially 
among the higher clergy and the friars f but this shifting was 
not of sufficient importance to delay for long the winning of 

Scarcely was freedom from the motherland a reality, however, 
before it was evident that special privilege in Central America 
was again jeopardized by the French revolutionary philosophy, 
which had trickled into the Indies in spite of the strict censorship 
of Spain; for the Liberals, made up largely of middle-class Creoles, 
showed unexpected numbers and aggressiveness. These men, 
many of whom had read Voltaire and other kindred writers with 
avidity, had led in the movement for independence, and now gave 
promise of ruining the plans of the Conservatives — or Serviles, 
as they are most commonly called — with whom the clergy had 
"allied themselves, by the estabhshment of a government upon a 
democratic basis. Largely in the hope of yet gaining their ends, 
the would-be ohgarchs eagerly welcomed a union with Mexico 

1 E. G. Squier. Nicaragua, II. 373-374, 378; H. H. Bancroft, Central America, 
III. 12, 18, 34, 38, 43. 

2 Bancroft, Central America, III. 38, 40. 




under Iturbide, whom the clerical wing of the group seemed 
especially to hail as a savior from the perils that faced them. 
But before the varied poUtical vmits which had composed the 
old Captaincy-General of Guatemala could — by voluntary sub- 
mission or by military coercion — be brought under the Mexican 
flag, Iturbide's wobbly throne collapsed and his dream of empire 
was no more.' 

The people of the Isthmus, again free to follow their own 
pohtical inclinations, through a national constituent assembly 
soon proclaimed themselves an independent nation under the 
name the United Provinces of Central America. Liberal ideas 
prevailed in the Assembly, and the hope for a centralized oligar- 
chical government which would make impregnable the position 
of special privilege was once more defeated. The constitution, 
proclaimed in 1824, provided for a federal republic; and the 
large number of legislative decrees promptly passed by the 
Liberals displayed a grim determination to exalt the lowly and 
to abase those who sat in the seats of the mighty. Human 
slavery was abolished, and hkewise the recently self-created 
nobility; even titles of special respect, such as "Don", were 
outlawed; monopolies and other economic discriminations were 
swept aside; a modern system of justice was introduced; free- 
dom of the press was proclaimed; and plans were laid for the intro- 
duction of free public schools on the model of those at the time 
being tried out in the United States.* 

The Liberals, however, in their zeal for reform and progress, 
forgot that the Central Americans, largely of aboriginal descent, 
must learn to creep before they could walk. Some of the above- 
mentioned legislation and much of that subsequently enacted was 
of too radical a character for the masses of the nation, who 
inclined to oppose it because it was new and incomprehensibly^"' 
Opposition to this leveling legislation on the part of the Jay- 
aristocrats was a foregone conclusion; and the clergy also set 

» Squier, Nicaragua, II. 379-384; Bancroft, Central America, III. 38, 55, 56, 66. 

* Alejandro Marure, Bosquejo Histdrico de las Revoluciones de Centro-AmSrica, 
desde 1811 hasta 18S4, I. 244-246; Squier, Nicaragua, II. 384-385; Bancroft, Cen- 
tral America, III. 628. 


themselves against the democratic laws as a whole, partly be- 
cause of the natm-al conservatism of the Church, partly because 
of previous fractional alignment with the aristocratic ServUes; 
and they displayed a special antipathy towards the plans for 
general intellectual enUghtenment,^ since the most loyal followers 
of the clergy were the densely ignorant aborigines and mestizos. 
Education imder public supervision was certain to decimate 
the numbers of these faithful. Such considerations led the 
Church to ally itself more firmly than before with the other con- 
servatives in the population, and to display an increased im- 
friendUness towards the party in power. 

This inimical attitude, towards the Liberals was many times 
multiplied in consequence of decrees aimed directly at the 
Church. For, though the constitution made Roman Catho- 
licism the state reUgion, to the exclusion of pubhc observance 
of any other, it was evident at the outset that the ecclesiastical 
was to be made subordinate to the civil, and that the clergy must 
part with many — if not all — of their ancient prerogatives. Even 
before the Federal constitution was completed, the undermining 
process was inaugurated, by decrees of the Constituent As- 
sembly, later followed up by enactments of the regular govern- 
ment. Certain of the early edicts much reduced the foreign 
support of the Church: the Inquisition, which had ceased to 
function with the collapse of the Spanish colonial machinery, 
was abohshed; no papal buU might be promulgated without 
previous approval by the central government; and no local 
heads of religious orders were permitted to recognize obedience 
to, or hold relations with, their superiors in Spain. The stream 
of clerical recruits was greatly attenuated by a decree forbidding 
admission of persons imder twenty-three years of age to monas- 
"""teries and nunneries, and those under twenty-five, to profession; 
and^the Church was enfeebled on its administrative side through 
a requirement that the archbishop make no appointment of parish 
priests without first securing governmental sanction of his choice. 
Other legislation of an economic nature was equally disastrous: 
the privilege, long enjoyed by the clergy, of having goods im- 

' Henry Dunn. Guatimala. pp. 104, 136. 


ported free of duty was canceled; the amount of tithes which 
they might collect was reduced by fifty per cent; and a com- 
prehensive inheritance law gave the children of priests and nuns 
the right to inherit like the off-spring of laymen — thus creating 
a continuous leakage of wealth from the ecclesiastical organi- 

The apparent result of all of this legislation was the curtail- 
ment of ecclesiastical power, but the immediate reasons for the 
different enactments varied. Some laws were intended to pro- 
tect the state from clergy — including Archbishop Ram6n Casaus 
and certain members of the monastic orders — who were under 
suspicion because they had opposed independence from Spain, 
and had, in some cases, to be coerced into taking the oath of 
allegiance to the Federal constitution; others aimed to help 
recoup the public treasury, and at the same time sweep away 
aristocratic privilege; while still other legislation — especially 
that of later date — ^was enacted for the punishment of oppo- 
sition to earlier acts and of intrigues against the government. 
These punitive measures, in particular, resulted in increased 
hostility on the part of the Church, which displayed itseff in 
greater opposition and more comprehensive intrigue; and this, 
in turn, produced more severe legislation. Thus was created a 
"vicious circle", which, as time passed, increased in power and 
in dangerous possibilities for the Central American Confederation. 

In this connection there should be mentioned one further 
influence affecting the relations of the governing faction and the 
Church. Though there were certain very laudable exceptions, 
both in character and in general ecclesiastical practices, the 
clergy of Central America left much to be desired; neither by 
precept nor by example did they teach pure religion and unde- 
filed.'' This fact gave an excellent handle to the Liberals, who— •- 
some moved merely by atheistic impatience,^ and others, by the 

•Marure, Bosquejo Histdrico, I. 244-246; Henry Charles Lea, The Inquisition 
in the Spanish Dependencies, pp. 297-298. 

'See the following: Dunn, Guatimala; Robert Glasgow Dunlop, Travels in 
Central America; Frederick Crowe, The Gospel in Central America; Squier, 

' Dunn, Guatimala, p. 92; Crowe, Gospel in Central America, pp. 123, 256-257. 


conviction that the power of the Church was a menace to 
republican government — ^proceeded to expose the moral weak- 
nesses of the priests and friars and to poke fun at the practices 
by which they fooled the superstitious, and aimed to dominate 
the minds of all. Stories and anecdotes with this in view were 
freely circulated by word of mouth ;^ but the public press and 
the theatre were also used^" — the latter efepecially to eliminate 
the desire expressed by some for the restoration of the Inqui- 

Though these methods detached some of the more inteUigent 
supporters of the Church, and even spread infidelity among the 
clergy, their chief effect was to widen the fast growing chasm 
between the Church and the Liberals and to increase to an 
intense degree the hatred felt for their enemies by the clergy 
and their remaining faithful. 

The character and the disparity of interests and aims shown 
by the Federal executive and the provincial officials of Guate- 
mala greatly aggravated the situation and encouraged clerico- 
aristocratic intrigue. Juan Barrundia and Cirilo Flores, jefe 
and vice-jefe of Guatemala province, were extreme radicals, 
and, as such, were relentless towards the Church.^^ The first 
Federal president was Manuel Jose Ai'ce, who, in an election 
of rather dubious legahty, had triumphed over his rival, Jose 
del Valle.i^ Arce, who appears to have been a man of httle 
character and no great ability, was nominally a Liberal and 
primarily a selfish politician. In tliis effort to make his position 
secure, he tried to please both political factions; and, thus, he 
offended his original supporters. The Conservatives, aided and 
encouraged by the clergy, did their utmost to add to the discord 

' Dunlop, Central America, p. 342; Bancroft, Central America, III. 62S. 
"i^Dunn, Guatimala, p. 119; Lea, Inquisition in the Spanish Dependencies, 
pp. 298-299; Squier, Nicaragua, I. 372. 

•1 "A play called 'La Inquisition per dentro,' or 'A Peep into the Inquisition,' 
had a great run and brought that institution into effectual and lasting odium." 
Squier, Nicaragua, I. 372. 

•2 Bancroft, Central America, III. 146. 
i» Dunn, Guatimala, p. 188. 


within the ranks of the Liberals, in general, and between the 
Federal and provincial authorities, in particular. Soon the 
atmosphere of suspicion and intrigue produced a virtual dead- 
lock in the Federal administration, which tempted Arce to 
resort to unconstitutional and violent measures. A conflict 
between the discordant elements within the province of Guate- 
mala was thus imminent ; but before it began, a storm which had 
long been brewing broke in another quarter. This was due to a 
quarrel between the Archbishop and the civil and ecclesiastical 
authorities of Salvador. 

Though, in importance in the Federation, Salvador ranked 
next to Guatemala, she had no bishop of her own but was under 
the direct ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the latter state. Hon- 
duras and Nicaragua, on the other hand, possessed independent 
episcopal organizations. The seeming discrimination, though 
probably due to Salvador's comparatively late political organi- 
zation, her smaller area, and her proximity and accessibility to 
Guatemala, had long been resented by the Salvadoreans, who, 
more then a decade before Central American independence, 
began a struggle for the erection of the province into a separate 
diocese." When the wars against Spain began, nothing had 
been definitely accomplished towards the realization of her 
ambitions, and, consequently, Salvador decided to act on her 
own initiative. Her determination to do so was largely caused 
by the influence of a Salvadorean priest, Matias Delgado" — 
who in his aspirations to wear the miter himself, had the support 
of the more worldly and less orthodox of the local clergy" — 
and by the fact that the Salvadoreans — among whom the Lib- 
eral element was particularly strong — had opposed union with 
Mexico, and had felt themselves betrayed by the Guatemalan- 

'< Marure, Bosquejo Histdrico, I. 129; J. Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, p; 120. 

« Ibid. 

" "El clero se dividi6 en opiniones: pocos eclesid,sticos respetables por sus 
virtudes y su conducta siguieron la causa de Delgado; pero encontraron apoyo 
en ella todos los que por la inmoralidad y los vieios, las resentimientos y las 
aspiraciones, estaban mal en el concepto del metropolitano." — Manuel Mon- 
tiifar, Memorias para la Historia de la BevoluciSn de Centro-Amirica, p. 34. 


aristocrats who favored it.^' Accordingly, taking advantage of 
the confusion caused by the struggle for independence, the 
revolutionary junta of Salvador, in 1822, erected a separate see 
and appointed Delgado to the office. The Constituent As- 
sembly of the province confirmed the action two years later, 
and formally notified the Federal government that it had done 
so. It also apprised the Pope of the appointment, "in order 
that he might make out the necessary bulls". '^ Neither Pope 
nor Archbishop had been consulted before this final action; but 
the latter promptly protested after learning of it — not, he 
asserted, against the creation of a separate diocese, but against 
the illegality of the procedure;" and later the Pontiff threatened 
Salvador with excommunication and called upon Delgado to 
repent.^ The Federal Congress, jealous of the assumption of 
power, and conscious of the rights of the Pope, refused to ap- 
prove the action of Salvador ;^i but the authorities of that state 
solemnly installed Delgado in April, 1825; and in defiance of 
high powers, civil and ecclesiastical, he occupied the recently 
constructed episcopal chair until 1829, when the Salvadoreans 
themselves turned against him.^^ 

The first result of this clash of ecclesiastical authority was a 
controversy between various churchmen of the Repubhc, led by 
the Archbishop. From involved arguments in which copious 
quotations from the Scriptures and from the Church Fathers 
figured largely on both sides,^ the contestants quickly descended 
to a fierce paper warfare; denunciation was countered with de- 
nunciation, and anathema, with anathema.^' As was inevitable, 
the church fell further in the respect of the intelligent part of 

" Dunn, Gualimala, p. 179. In the hope of saving herself from incorporation 
^ifch Mexico, Salvador passed a solemn act, December 2, 1S22, decreeing her 
unid^i with the United States. The government at Washington appears to have 
paid no attention to the compliment (see Squier, Nicaragua, II. 383-384). 
i« Marure, Bosquejo Historico, I. 129-130; Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, 120. 
'" Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, p. 121. 
2° Marure, Bosquejo Hisidrico, I. 134. 
2' Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, pp. 123, 124. 
^^ Ibid., p. 124; Montufar, Memorias, p. 36. 

" Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, pp. 121-122; Dunn, Guatimala, pp. 117-118. 
" Dunn, Guatimala, pp. 118-119. 


the population, and it lost almost the last vestige of power for 
good that it had possessed among the influential part of the 
nation. In Salvador, in particular, which had already been 
profoundly influenced by the free thought of the French phil- 
osophers, infidelity grew to a degree that alarmed the more 
serious among the clergy, some of whom took measures designed 
to counteract it.*^ 

This quarrel was one of the causes of the trouble between 
President Arce and his congress, for the leaders of the malcon- 
tents were the members from Salvador. The Liberals of the 
two provinces were divided by it, and thus were further aided 
the intrigues with which the opposition now busied itself, led 
by the clergy, who could point to the atheism of Salvador and 
the disrespect for religion shown by its officials, as well as by the 
jefe and the vice-jefe of Guatemala, to prove that the Liberal 
party was the enemy of religion and aimed to destroy the people's 
means of salvation.^^ 

Meanwhile, the intrigues of the Serviles — and perhaps his 
own natural interests — brought Arce closer to the latter," while 
his high-handed and unconstitutional procedure widened the gulf 
between himself and the Liberals. Then came the act which 
perhaps did more than anything else to precipitate the civil 
conflict, which the ecclesiastical schism had made virtually 
inevitable.'^ This was Arce's arrest of Barrundia, the radical 
jefe of Guatemala, upon the charge that he was planning a 
coup de main. Whether the accusation was well founded it is 
impossible to say; for while it is very evident that many Liberals, 
like Barrundia, would have been glad to remove Arce from 

" Ibid., 119. "San Salvador, at present in a state of complete anarchy, sends 
forth a weekly newspaper in which the authority of the pope, the celibacy of the 
clergy, and monastic institutions are openly ridiculed, and quotations fronj^/tfP'^ 
taire striking at the root of all religion are constantly inserted" {ibidf. "In 
America there is none of the majestic solemnity attached to the Roman Catholic 
religion, which is found in some of the countries of continental Europe" (Dunlop, 
Central America, p. 343). 

" Montufar, Memorias, pp. 32-36, passim. 

" Dunn, Guatimala, p. 202. 

*' Alejandro Marure, Efemerides de los hechos notables acaecidos en la Repiiblica 
de Centro-AmSrica, desde el ano de 1821 hasta el de 1842, pp. 35-36. 


power, it is equally patent that the ServUes of Guatemala— 
especially the clerical element among them — desired to be rid of 
Barrundia. Furthemiore, there is no doubt that at this stage 
plotting and scheming were rife on both sides. 

Hostilities began almost immediately, with the Archbishop 
and Arce supporting the Serviles and del Valle on the side of the 
Liberals. Much of the strength of the latter came from the 
Salvadoreans, at first led by Bishop Delgado — who appears to 
have been more of a pohtician than a pastor — with whom the 
disaffected elements in Honduras and Guatemala allied them- 
selves.2' For more than two years Central America rocked and 
swayed under warfare as violent and destructive as a tropical 
storm. To the complexities and horrors of strife involving the 
Confederation as a whole were added those resulting from 
revolutions and civil conflicts within the provinces themselves. 
In many cases, it is impossible to determine either motives or 
sequence in the welter of events, but one fact stands out clearly 
through it all: that, except for the Salvadorean clerical ad- 
herents of Delgado, the clergy and their ignorant faithful fought 
desperately against the Liberals. Unspeakable atrocities were 
committed by both sides, but none was worse than the massacre 
of Vice-Jefe Flores in a church to which he had fled for sanctuary 
— a deed inspired by the preaching of a fanatical friar.^" 

As the conflict proceeded, Francisco JNIorazan gradually came 
to the front as military leader of the Liberal forces, and through 
his superior generalship, Guatemala City was captured and the 
Serviles were crushed. Following this, Morazan was first made 
dictator, and then president, of the Republic; and in these 
capacities he shaped the policy of the Liberals as long as they 
remained dominant in the government. 

" Dkija G. Munro, Central America, p. 29. 

'" The^special cause for hostility towards Flores was that in the general levy 
of taxes for state purposes, he had not spared the property of the Church. When 
the news of Barrundia's arrest arrived, "a friar ascended the pulpit, in the 
principal town, on a market-day, and by his harangue so infuriated the populace 
against Flores, that they started in pursuit of him, and although he sought 
sanctuary in the church, they followed him thither, and slaughtered him at the 
very foot of the altar, literally rending his body in pieces, amidst cries of "Long 
live Guatemala! Death to the Republic!" (Squier, Nicaragua, II. 396). 


In view of the fact that the victors early evinced a determi- 
nation to deal severely with Arce and the other non-clerical 
leaders of the Serviles, it would seem a foregone conclusion that 
the churchmen, and especially the Archbishop, would share in 
the punishment; for the Liberals well knew that Casaus had 
voted against separation from Spain,'' that since the establish- 
ment of independence he had used his influence against them, 
especially during the conflict just ended,'^ and that he was 
opposed to the reforms — particularly those in the interests of 
general education — ^which the new government was determined 
to push.'' Furthermore, it hardly seems possible that Morazdn 
could have seriously believed that the Archbishop would even 
remain neutral under the existing regime, to say nothing of 
showing active loyalty to the party in power. Nevertheless, 
the victorious Liberal appears to have decided to give Casaus a 
fair trial, perhaps largely because he doubted his ability to cope 
with the situation that might be created by the latter's ex- 
pulsion. Probably likewise from motives of policy, he even 
showed a desire to conciliate the Church party as a whole — 
which expected the atheistic Liberals to show a contempt for all 
religion — by being very punctilious about having the soldiers 
attend divine service.'* 

Shortly after coming to the head of the government, Morazdn 
had a frank talk with the Archbishop and tried to come to an 
understanding with him. During this conversation Casaus ap- 
pears to have expressed a willingness to acquiesce in the existing 
state of affairs and to cooperate with the government in its 
efforts to restore order and to stabilize the administration.'^ 
And at this time he must have realized — what had been true 

" G. A. Thompson, Narrative of an Official Visit to Guatemala, 142; MS., bv, 
F. Morazin, Apuntes de las revoluciones de '29, p. 2; Marure, Bosquejo Hist^rico, 
I. 130. 

'* "Dictamen de la comision especial nombrada por la Asamblea Legislativa 
del Estado del Salvador," Oct. 18, 1826, which is found in the appendix to Manuel 
Jos6 Arce's Memoria. 

" Dunn, Guatimala, 104, 136; Thompson, Narrative, 338. 

" Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, p. 269. 

» Ibid., p. 270. 


before the civil wars — that he would have very little inde- 
pendent power, but must make appointments in harmony with 
the wishes of the government. 

This done, Morazdn proceeded. The Federal government 
was virtually bankrupt, and therefore Congress decreed that 
some of the silver should be taken from the churches and coined 
into money. A requisition for this purpose was accordingly 
presented to the Archbishop, who apparently gave the necessary 
orders without hesitation.^^ Moraz^n then instructed Casaus to 
remove certain church officials and a considerable number of 
priests, who were objectionable because of their enmity towards 
the government, and to appoint other specified ones to their 
places.'' To some of the proposed appointments the Arch- 
bishop objected, on the basis of the men's religious views, or 
their characters,^^ or the fact that they had become his enemies 
in the strife over the Bishopric of Salvador; but under pressure 
from the government he finally made the required changes.^" 
In doing so, however, he threw the blame for them upon Mo- 
razd,n — where it obviously belonged — and made evident his own 
helpless disapprovals by wording as follows the notifications sent 

« Ibid., p. 234. 

•' Ibid., p. 269; Montdfar, Memorias, p. 169. 

" "Durante la omnipotencia de Morazdn en Guatemala, y antes la reuni6n 
del congreso, domin6 tambien al arzobispo D. Fr. Ram6n Casaus : le oblig6 por 
el terror y por las intrigas y sugestiones, &, nombrar para provisor del arzobispado 
al Dr. D. Jos6 Antonio Alcayaga, y para gobernador eclesidstico del obispado de 
Honduras . . . . al presbltero D. Francisco Mdrquez, de cuyas opiniones 
religiosas no estaba satisfecho el arzobispo, como no estaba de las del Dr. Al- 
cayaga con respecto &, las que habia emitido sobre la erecci<5n de la silla episcopal 
en San Salvador. Morazdn oblig6 tambien al arzobispo d. variar casi todos los 
pdrrocos que egercian con titulo de propiedad en el estado de Guatemala, y 
design6 loa que queria para subrogar &. los depuestos 6 separados : entre los que 
-^Sgnombraron habia una porci6n de eclesidsticos cuya conducta moral era en lo 
privado y en lo piiblico reprehensible y escandalosa." (Montdfar, Memorias, 
pp. 163x170). 

The charges against the religious views and the morals of the clergy of Mo- 
razdn's choice probably had considerable foundation; for the churchmen who 
favored the Liberal cause were much influenced by the teachings of the French 
philosophers, and laxity of morals was likely to increase among the clergy in 
proportion as infidelity grew. 

" Montdfar, Memorias, p. 170. 


to the new appointees: "The General has demanded the depo- 
sition of and appointed you in his place."^" 

ReaUzing the probable effect of such a communication upon 
the clergy as a whole and upon their adherents, Morazdn was 
very indignant when he heard what Casaus had done, and wrote 
him an angry letter, in which he indicated that he thought that 
the tactics used were intended to precipitate an uprising. 

"Most Reverend Archbishop," he proceeded, "the form of your 
notification is alarming, and a personal insult to me. Your conduct 
is in glaring contradiction of the principles of prudence and moderation 
which would be in order, and completely at variance with the senti- 
ments you displayed in our private discussions. ... I have still 
the sword in my hand, my victorious army is ready to execute my 
commands; I maintain the rights of the people and defend the laws; 
and I am firmly determined to remove by the power of arms all the 
obstacles which might oppose the estabhshment of order and law, 
wherever moderation and courtesy prove without avail."" 

Some authorities are of the opinion that this letter was not 
dispatched to the Archbishop, but that one of milder tone was 
substituted.^^ Whether or not this was the case is of little im- 
portance to the question. The really significant fact is the 
character of the document, for it discloses Morazan's attitude, 
and makes it evident that if he had not already decided to lay 
violent hands upon Casaus it would take very little more to 
persuade him to do so. There is no available evidence that 
further communications passed between the two men. 

Not long after Morazan had written the sharp criticism of the 
Archbishop, and but two days following the proscription by the 
Federal Congress of a number of lay members of the defeated 
Serviles, Morazan, who had been recently invested with extra- 
ordinary powers, gave orders for the expulsion of Casaus mSr& 

*" Translated from Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, p. 269. J. Haefkens was 
consul-general for the Netherlands in Central America during the period in 
question, and his testimony is of much value, as coming from an unbiased out- 

*' Translated from Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, pp. 269-270. 

** Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, p. 270. 


large portion of the members of the Franciscan, Domiaican, and 
Recollect orders of Guatemala City/' The discovery of a con- 
spiracy against the government in which the Prelate and the 
friars were involved was given as the reason for the action.^* 
Several civil or mihtary officials, likewise accused of implication 
in the alleged plot, were at the same time arrested and thrown 
into prison.*^ 

That many of the priests and friars had previously opposed, 
and plotted against, the Liberals, and that they were living in 
the hope that Central America might soon be brought again under 
Spanish rule and their ancient privileges be restored,*" was com- 
mon knowledge, but whether either they or the Archbishop were 
guilty of a specific plot against the government at the time of 
their arrest is somewhat doubtful ; for it seems as if more details 
would be available if a definite conspiracy had been laid bare. 
The charge may have been published by the government simply 
with a view to justifying its contemplated action in the eyes of 
the nation — a theory which gains considerable support from the 
fact that the officials who were arrested as fellow conspirators 
were quietly released shortly after the accused clergy had been 
removed from the city.*'' 

It should be emphasized, however, that the primary reason 
for the expatriation of the friars was the behef that they were 
a menace to the government, and, hence, to the Republic, and 
not, as some writers have implied, the mere desire for an excuse 
to profit by their wealth. Yet it is not necessary to assmne 
that Morazan and his associates were unmindful of the fact that 
the orders — especially that of St. Dominic** — were reported to 
possess much wealth, which might come in handy in helping fill 
the depleted coffers of the nation, and in feeding and paying 

" I'kid., p. 271; Montlifar, Memorias, p. 170; Marure, Efemerides, p. 25. 
** Hai^fkens, Ceniraal Amerika, p. 272; Dunlop, Central America, p. 177; Squier, 
Nicaragua, II. 408. 

*' Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, p. 272. 

*° Bancroft, Central America, III. 146; Dunn, Guatimala, p. 116. 

" Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, p. 272. 

*' Thompson, Narrative, p. 146. 


the army, the maintenance of which was essential to Liberal 

The arrests were made on the night of July 10, 1829. The 
servants of the Archbishop were temporarily imprisoned in one 
of the rooms of the latter's palace and guarded by soldiers, and 
Casaus was given notice to prepare for his departure. After he 
had gathered some of his possessions and made other arrange- 
ments, the Prelate was placed in a chair and carried away from 
the palace, well escorted by troops.*" A little later, his journey 
out of the country began. Notwithstanding the charges of anti- 
Liberal writers," considerable pains seem to have been taken to 
treat the Archbishop as became his rank. Transportation facili- 
ties were so poor as to make it necessary that he ride to the 
coast; but two hundred and eighteen pesos, as the accounts in- 
dicate, were paid for a mule and its equipment for his accommo- 
dation, pages to accompany him and take care of his effects 
cost something over a thousand more, and two thousand pesos 
were allowed for the further expenses of his journey. ^^ 

For most of the distance to the coast the Archbishop and the 
friars traveled in company, the route being from Guatemala 
City to the GuK of Dulce, next, to Gualan, and then to Omoa, 

*' "The army, which contained about eighteen hundred men — including a very 
disproportionate number of officers — had in the beginning used about sixty 
thousand dollars per month for its support; now, the soldiers were in want, not- 
withstanding the fact that the desertions, at which the superior officers connived, 
had thinned the ranks. There were already some instances of soldiers who, in 
order to subdue the pangs of hunger, had eaten wild fruits — especially the 
luscious, cooling fruit of the cactus — and had succumbed to the distemper brought 
about by thi s improper diet. The resources were exhausted and there was a 
feeling against resorting to open violence and exaction. The State of Guatemala, 
which, so far, had footed the bills, had already announced that it was no longer 
able to do so; the other states, instead of volunteering contributions, clamored 
for indemnifications. Under these circumstances, it is not too much to assume 
that the booty expected from the monasteries may have contributed a partial^ 
motive." (Translated from Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, pp. 273-274.) 

'° Montiifar, Memorias, p. 170; Manuel Jos^ Arce, Memoria, p. 123. -^ 

'' Montiifar, Memorias, p. 170. 

" Bancroft, Central America, III. 103-104; Lorenzo Montiifar, Resena His- 
tdrica de Centro-Am^rica, I. 157. "Una persona que Ueva todo esto no puede 
decir que carece de provisiones. San Pedro no habria necesitado tanto". (Mon- 
lifar, Resena Histdrica, I. 157.) 


where ship was taken.^' Casaus, evidently through preference, 
went to Havana, where the Spanish authorities received him well. 
A short time after his arrival he was voted a pension of three 
thousand pesos by the Spanish government," and subsequently 
he was appointed to the see of Havana, which he occupied until 
his death, in 1845." 

Presumably, stimulated by .the fact of Casaus having accepted 
bounty at the hands of the repudiated motherland, in June, 
1830, the Congress of Central America declared the Archbishop 
a traitor, confiscated his property, and passed against him a formal 
sentence of expatriation.^^ 

On the night on which the Archbishop was apprehended the 
troops of Morazan also took captive a large number of the 
members of the Franciscan, Dominican, and Recollect orders living 
in the capital." After their houses had been surrounded by 
soldiers, the brethren were assembled in response to roU-callj^* 
and were commanded to mount at once the horses and mules 
that stood ready in the courtyards. Ignorant of what awaited 
them, but fearing the worst, the friars obeyed and were promptly 
taken under military guard to the Gulf of Dulce, where they were 
soon joined by the Archbishop, after which the whole group of 
prisoners proceeded to the coast and were put aboard two 
vessels which were about ready for departure.^^ Both ships 
appear to have gone first to Havana, where most of the friars 

" Arce, Memoria, p. 123; Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, p. 271. 

'* Montiifar, Memorias, p. 171. 

'' Marure, Efemirides, pp. 61-62. After the Serviles gained control in Central 
America, Casaus was repeatedly invited to return, but he never did (Bancroft, 
Central America, III. 104). 

'^ Montiifar, Memorias, p. 171; Crowe, Gospel in Central America, p. 131. 

" Marure, Efem&rides, p. 25; Montiifar, Memorias, p. 170. 

'* Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, p. 271. According to Thompson (Narrative, 
"■pv-lQl) there were in Guatemala City, in 1S25, about one hundred and twenty 
friars, all told, who belonged to these three orders. Haefkens says (Centraal 
Amerika, p. 271) that about sixty were banished. Just how much effort was 
made to distinguish the innocent from the guilty is not apparent, but it is quite 
evident that all of the members of the three orders were not sent out of the 
country when the Archbishop was banished. (See G. F. von Tempsky, Mitla, 
p. 372.) 

*' Montiifar, Memorias, p. 170; Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, p. 271. 


disembarked with Archbishop Casaus, but a number of them 
continued to New Orleans in the United States packet Albany. ^'^ 

Some of the friars, especially those of advanced age, died during 
the voyage, and others, after they had reached their desti- 
nations." This unhappy fact was made much of by the enemies 
of the Liberal cause ;^^ but there seems to be no doubt that the 
prisoners were treated about as well as conditions permitted. 
The hardships they suffered were the result of circumstances 
rather than of any aim to insult and persecute them. A heavy 
rain was falling when they departed from Guatemala City, and, 
for some reason that is not clear, the friars had to walk for the 
first three miles." The exposure to the weather was doubtless 
very hard on the aged, and also the mental strain; for many of 
the prisoners believed when they were arrested that they were 
about to be put to death.^^ But they were soon assured that they 
were in no such danger, and were supplied with mounts for 
practically the whole journey to the port of Omoa. They were, 
moreover, given time to rest and recuperate at Gualan." Their 
food aboard ship was coarse and simple, and the water with which 
they were furnished was bad; but, as regards both food and 
drink, they fared no worse than did the sailors.^'' There was 
this difference, however: the mariners were accustomed to such 
treatment, while the friars were not. It should be borne in 
mind, also, that the voyage was long and rough; for the passage 
between Honduras and Havana alone consimied sixteen days; 
and it took fifty-two before the exiles bound for New Orleans 
reached their destination." 

Furthermore, the future needs of the banished friars were not 
entirely disregarded, for the Federal government voted that they 
be paid a pension of one hundred and fifty pesos, the money to^ 

'» Arce, Memoria, p. 123. 
" Ibid., p. 124. 

'2 Ibid. ; Montuf ar, Memorias, p. 170. 
''' Arce, Memoria, p. 123. 
- " Haefkens, Cenlraal Amerika, III. 271. 
" Ibid. 

" Arce, Memoria, p. 124. 
" Ibid., p. 123. 


be secured from the property of the orders, which the repubUc 
had promptly confiscated.^^ 

The most valuable possession of the friars was the landed 
property, which the government tried to sell, but as few buyers 
appeared, the estates were for the most part disposed of under 
lease contracts.^' Both as regards the amount of treasure found 
in the houses of the friars and the disposal of it, the writers of 
the time fail to agree. Haefkens is of the opinion that this part 
of the booty did not come up to expectations,^" while Manuel 
Montufar says that it exceeded them.'^ Arce seems to agree 
with the latter;'* and it is probable that these two Central Ameri- 
cans knew whereof they spoke. According to Montufar, the 
government stipulated that the sacred vessels and other ecclesi- 
astical furnishings of value and fine workmanship should be given 
to the cathedral, that other articles should be distributed among 
the poor parishes, and that the remainder of the gold and silver 
objects should be melted down and coined into money." He 
declares, however, that the plan largely failed of execution, 
and that in the end only a few individuals benefited from the con- 
fiscation of the treasure.'* One of the newspapers of the time 
accused the populace and the soldiers of looting the monasteries, 
but both Arce and Montufar discredit this statement, '= and 
the latter indicates that those who profited were the wealthier 
classes and the leaders. Large amounts of the valuables, Mon- 
tufar says, reached Chiapas and the British settlements in 
Belize, and were used in the latter place in the payment of mer- 
cantile bills of one sort or another. And it was reported, accord- 
ing to the same writer, that after the plate reached the mint 
some of it was appropriated by an official, in lieu of salary due 

^ ^vHaefkens, Centraal Amerika, p. 276. 
69 hid., p. 274. 
" Ibid. 

" Montiifar, Memorias, p. 175. 
" Arce, Memoria, p. 123. 
" Montufar, Memorias, p. 175. 
" Ibid., p. 176. 
" Ibid., p. 174; Arce, Memoria, p. 123. 


him; and it was even hinted that some of the pieces of treasure 
became the private possessions of Morazdn himself.''^ 

It seems impossible to determine the exact truth of the 
matter; but no person familiar with the frailties of human 
nature in general and with the corruptibility of public officials 
in particular will for a minute assume that a miracle was wrought 
in the case in question, and that the treasure was disposed of 
exactly as decreed — or even that the government intended that 
it should be. 

Though Moraz^n gave the orders for the expulsion of the friars, 
they were issued in entire accordance with the views of the 
acting president of the Republic and of the new jefe of Guate- 
mala; and after the banishment had taken place, the Federal 
Congress formally thanked the Commander-in-Chief for the zeal 
that he had displayed in the matter.'' In fact, from this time 
on, there appears to have been general agreement among the 
Liberal leaders in the provinces and the central government that 
the Church in all of its branches should be placed beyond the 
possibility of harming the Liberal cause. In harmony with this 
idea, about two weeks after the religious orders had been ban- 
ished, the Legislative Assembly of Guatemala passed a decree 
for the suppression of monastic establishments of men through- 
out the province", as inconsistent with republican freedom and 
equality, and on account of the hostility of the majority of 
their members against the new institutions"." The one ex- 
ception made was the Bethlehemite hospitallers, who had busied 
themselves in teaching and caring for the sick, and had escaped 
suspicion. They were permitted to remain as secular priests.'' 
All the property of the suppressed establishments was confis- 
cated by the State. ^^ The same decree encouraged nuns to 

" . . . "se habla de vasos y piezas tomadas 6 adjudicados al 
primer gefe del eg^rcito aliado : se habla de cantidad de plata tomada en la casa 
de moneda por otro funcionario, ya & cuenta de sueldos, ya sin este pretesto" 
(Montdfar, Memorias, p. 175). 

" Bancroft, Central America, III. 103-104. 

" Haefkens, Centraal Amerika, pp. 275-276. 

" Marure, Efem&rides, p. 25. 

'" Ihid.; Crowe, Gosyel in Central America, p. 131. 


secularize, and cut off recruits for the nunneries by prohibiting 
all future vows and professions by women." On September 7th 
of the same year the Federal Congress declared that religious 
orders would no longer be received or recognized in the land; 
and the various provinces of the Confederation quickly ratified 
the declaration. S2 

The members of the religious orders who were not banished 
with the Archbishop fared variously. Those who were regarded 
as dangerous to the government were ordered to leave the country, 
and in some cases were escorted out of the land; while others 
departed on their own initiative.^' Some preferred to doff their 
ecclesiastical garb and remain, engaged in secular pursuits.** 
Most of the nuns seem to have continued true to their vows, 
and to have pursued their cloistered lives with renewed zeal, 
which perhaps accounts for their being further limited in 1834 
by a decree prohibiting the authorities from retaining those 
who refused to reside in the convents where they professed.** 

The confiscated buildings of the religious orders were put to 
various secular uses, generally in execution of the progressive 
plans of the Liberals. The house of the Dominicans in Guate- 
mala City became a model prison, like those recently estabhshed 
in the United States, the cells of the friars being altered to ac- 
commodate criminals; another convent in the capital was occupied 
by the new Lancasterian normal school; a third was converted 
into a public hospital; while still others were employed as mili- 
tary barracks, or in connection with governmental plans for the 
improvements of agriculture and commerce.*^ Convent buildings 
in the outlying parts of the Republic were put to similar uses." 

" Marure, EfemSrides, p. 25; Crowe, Gospel in Central America, p. 131. 

8* Marure, Efemirides, p. 57, 59; Squier, Nicaragua, II. 409. 

*' Montiifar, Memorias, p. 176; Squier, Nicaragua, II. 408. 

'* Tempsky, Mitla, p. 372; G. W. Montgomery, Narrative of a Journey to 
Guatemala, in Central America, in 1S3S, p. 92. 

" Marure, Efem6rides, p. 57. 

^'^Ibid., pp. 62, 72, 87; Montufar, Memorias, p. 176; Crowe, Gospel in Central 
America, p. 136. 

«' Squier, Nicaragua, I. 372. 


The more immediate danger to the government having been 
removed by the expulsion of the Archbishop and by the acts 
against the regular clergy, the Liberals proceeded further to 
weaken the Church on its secular side by Federal decrees pro- 
hibiting the promulgation, without previous governmental con- 
sent, of papal enactments of every description, and providing 
that the appointment of all high Church dignitaries be made by 
the president of the Repubhc.** A still bolder step was taken 
in May, 1832, when Congress declared complete religious free- 
dom, and promised protection to all denominations — a measure 
which the provincial assemblies promptly confirmed. ^^ 

Indeed, in some cases the states anticipated or exceeded the 
central government in their anti-clerical legislation. Perhaps the 
most extreme example of this is furnished by Honduras, which 
decreed, in May, 1830, that secular priests might marry and 
their children inherit just as did the offspring of other marriages; 
and what makes the law of special interest is the fact that it was 
proposed by a bishop who had allied himself with the Liberals 
and sat in the provincial assembly.^" Presiraiably with the 
object of more closely identifying the secularized friars also with 
the main body of the population, Honduras — later followed by 
Guatemala — specifically decreed that this anomalous group 
should come under the regular inheritance laws, and should 
enjoy full rights of citizenship." At about the time that the 
central government proclaimed religious freedom, most of the 
states struck the Church a blow on the financial side by pro- 
hibiting all payment of tithes, ^s In 1834, Costa Rica and 

'8 Ibid., p. 371; Crowe, Gospel in Central America, pp. 131-132; Dunlop, Central 
America, p. 181. 

*' Crowe, Gospel in Central America, pp. 131-132. In consequence of this 
decree, Frederick Crowe, who was a British Baptist missionary, began his labgra- ^' 
in Central America. He remained until religious intolerance was reestablished 
through the victory of the Serviles. 

'"Marure, Efemerides, pp. 60-61; Karl Scherzer, Wanderungen durch die 
Mittel-Amerikanischen Freistaaten, p. 316. The law was repealed in the following 
year, but the part relating to inheritance was reenacted in 1833 (see Arce, Efe- 
merides, pp. 60-61). 

'' Marure, Efemerides, p. 82. 

« Ibid., p, 71. 


Guatemala, in the hope of eliminating one of the most powerful 
means of control possessed by the clergy, declared the aboUtion 
of all fete and saints' days of the Roman Church, except Sunday 
and five of the most sacred holidays.^' The thought of weaken- 
ing priestly power also prompted the provision by some of the 
states for cemeteries under public control;'^ and was the basis 
for the decree passed by Guatemala in 1837 — and enacted by 
the Federal Congress the following year — which declared that 
marriage should be recognized before the law as merely a civil 
contract. ^' 

It is doubtful whether the Central American Confederation 
could have long survived, even if the influence of the Church 
could have been completely eliminated; for individual selfish- 
ness and the schism created by Delgado prevented solidarity 
among the Liberals ; and the many members ,of the Servile group 
who were unmoved by religious interests were determined to 
gain the ascendancy at all odds; furthermore, with these latter 
was allied a strong British element — official representatives as 
well as private individuals — who labored incessantly to over- 
throw Moraz^n and his supporters, because of a determination 
displayed by these Liberals to thwart British ambitions and 
designs on the Isthmus. ^« As it was, Roman Catholicism proved 
the most direct and most inevitable cause for the downfall of 
the Liberals and the destruction of the Union. This was due to 
the fact that in its efforts to destroy the clerical menace, the 
government simply increased the power of the enemy. For 
though, by persistent effort, the Liberals had transformed the 
Church from a religious monopoly, supported at public expense, 
into a private organization — shorn of much of its wealth, and, 
apparently, of its most obvious means of control — which must 
^""~take, its chances with other religious bodies that might be estab- 
lished in the land; and though the most intelligent part of the 

" Crowe, Gospel in Central America, p. 136; Montiifar, Resena histdrica, 
II. 78. 

" Montuf ar, Resena histdrica, II. 78. 

'' Marure, Efemerides, p. 93. 

'" Mary W. Williams, Anglo-American Isthmian Diplomacy, p. 3 


population had come to hold most of its teachings in contempt 
and to ridicule many of its practices;" so firm was the grip of 
the priests upon the ignorant masses, that not only were the laws 
which were intended to liberate the humbler members of the 
population from clerical influence of no effect, '•^ but the zeal of 
the masses for the Church was vastly increased, and, through 
the preaching of the enraged clergy, their distrust and fear of 
the Liberals created in them a solidarity which could be em- 
ployed with disastrous effect under priestly leadership. 

This power in the hands of the Church had repeatedly shown 
sinister possibiUties through sullen opposition here and there to 
the innovations of financial exactions of the government; or in 
the form of uprisings in the provinces against measures that 
seemed to endanger religion; and only a fitting opportunity was 
needed to produce wide-spread and successful resistance. This 
chance came in 1837 when an epidemic of cholera scourged the 
land. At the time when it appeared, the Indians of the Dis- 
trict of Mita, influenced by their priests and other ill-disposed 
persons, were much perturbed over the system of trial by jury — 
incomprehensible to them — which was being introduced. The 
disease spread rapidly, and the government, in the hope of some- 
what alleviating the situation, dispatched the available physicians 
and medical students, as well, to the afflicted districts with 
remedies for distribution. But their ministrations were of little 
or no avail, and the natives died by the thousand. A frenzy of 
terror, which the vigilant clergy promptly used to advantage, 
soon seized the poor wretches. The disease, the priests inti- 
mated, was caused by the Liberals having poisoned the rivers 
and streams with a view to wiping out the original population 
and repeopling the land with foreigners. In proof of this, they 
pointed to a recent grant of territory in Vera Paz made to sr 
British colonization company. A cry was now raised by the 

" . . . "all the young people above the laboring classes have, in spite 
of them [the priests] imbibed infidel opinions, and make no hesitation in calling 
the Christian revelation a ridiculous fable, and the priests, comedians and cheats" 
(Dunlop, Central America, p. 342). 

'' Dunlop, Central America, p. 343, and passim; Montdfar, Resefia histdrica, 
II. 78. 


frantical Indians against their supposed imirderers, and against 
the foreign usurpers. Before the physicians could escape, some 
of them were seized and put to death by various methods of 

In this manner the insurrectionary movement began in the 
District of Mita; but it spread rapidly, gaining support not only 
from the ignorant masses in other parts of the country, but from 
the aristocratic Serviles and political and religious exUes^ — who 
now returned home — and, towards the last, from those who de- 
serted the losing cause of the Liberals. The leader of the Mita 
aborigines was an illiterate mestizo youth, Rafael Carrera, who, 
at the outset, was merely a tool in the hands of the priests; but 
his power and self-importance increased as the revolt spread, 
and he was soon hailed as general and commander-in-chief of the 
motley and heterogeneous army that rallied about him. Stimu- 
lated by his military successes and encouraged by the ecclesi- 
astics, this unkempt and ignorant stripling soon came to regard 
himself as a "man of destiny", called by the Almighty to tear down 
the existing order in the interest of a system of some other type, 
to be instituted by himself.'"" 

Even before the rise of Carrera, the nation was in a bad way: 
the Federal government was showing serious signs of demorali- 
zation, and secession had become an epidemic among the prov- 
inces. When the insurrection broke out among the Indians, 
Francisco Morazan, who for two ternis had served as president, 
headed the military forces of the Liberals and fought now here 
and now there as the power which had armed itself to destroy 
him appeared in new quarters. But the odds were on the other 
side. By April, 1840, Morazdn's defeat was so decisive that, 

" Marure, Efemirides, pp. 95-96; Crowe, Gospel in Central America, p. 141; 
"HQimlop, Central America, pp. 192-194; Montgomery, Narrative, pp. 142-143. 

100 "They [the priests] proclaimed to the natives that he was their protecting 
angel Rafael, descended from heaven to take vengeance on the heretics, Liberals, 
and foreigners, and to restore their ancient dominion. They devised various 
tricks to favor the delusion, which were heralded as miracles. A letter was 
let down from the roof of one of the churches, in the midst of a vast congregation 
of Indians, which purported to come from the Virgin Mary, commissioning 
Carrera to lead in a general revolt against the government, and assuring him of 
the tangible interposition of Heavenl" (Squier, Nicaragua, II. 429-430.) 


with a handful of loyal followers, he fled to Chile, leaving 
behind him the wreck of the Confederation in the hands of the 
Serviles. Two years later -vyhen Morazan returned, with the 
object of restoring the union of the provinces, he overestimated 
the zeal felt for this cause, was overthrown and imprisoned as 
a result of an insurrection produced by his financial exactions; 
and, on September 18, 1841, was shot by his captors. With 
him perished the best hope of Central America. 

Mary Wilhelmine Williams. 

H 193 82 i 

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